Rita Sajevic lost her mind on home plate at 5:15 pm, two days after dual interviews at competing churches. She’d work the night shift cleaning 11 blocks from home. All this was in shorthand on her palm faded by cherry red ink. On her other palm was a tattoo of a fetus whose life ended tragically. After Rita relived the event, outside of confession mind you, I swore to several saints never to retell that story to anyone.
Bang! It went. Bang! Bang! Bang! A whole series of bangs, like gunshots at a shooting range, echoes coming atop one another, full of alarm and the awful promise of consequence. Eleven-year old George Pearl, twelve before you’d know it, his birthday but an hour or so away, ducked his head as he walked down the dark center road of Riverside Cemetery. Shadows of stones moved around him, angular blocks of darkness set upon darkness, the ground and the shadows giving up other noises steeped with night and night things. Sounds swelled like thermals, unseen but known, catching up what was loose in the air, broadcasting strange messages that he could identify in a split second … fear, catastrophe, disaster, strange hands reaching to touch his backside, strange sounds at his ears. All around were strange things that boomed or blasted or bellowed in the night.
A thousand little Benjies constantly talk in my head. A thousand little creatures speaking, some in subdued almost suppressed and some in apprehensive yet hollow tones, somewhere in my head. They all talk, all of them, together, simultaneously. Shut up, shut up, shut up. They keep repeating those words. Like parrots on cocaine, they keep repeating those words. Blah, Blah, Blah. Tickets please, sir. I was sitting, and the clock went one, then two, then three, then she came picked me up and then we were here and I was sitting again but we were moving. And we are moving, and they are moving, and those are moving, and maybe it was a bicycle and not a bike. Maybe we’re not moving at all, and it’s just my head horsing around. I have liquid memories and container moods, the latter follows shape and the former follows suit. I press my eyes against my palms, and I melt right through. They won’t let me forget. These bastards won’t let me forget.
“Is it fair?”
Those were the last words Eddie said to the man he had thought I was before he drifted back into the only honest sleep of his final days. A smiling sleep caused by my youngest daughter, who did one of the finest things I have ever seen a human being do.
Eddie died yesterday, and his parents have asked me to speak at his “Celebration of Life” this Sunday. I have plenty of harmless Eddie anecdotes to warm hearts and kill ten minutes with. It may be cynical of me to say it, but even though the most timid human being tends to live an R-rated life, few celebrations of such are anything less than family friendly.
Silence is the color
in a blind man’s eyes
Leo wondered if it was some kind of contest, if it smacked of more than what it seemed. He had heard the poem a hundred times, Chornby always walking around with the book in his shirt pocket or back pocket suddenly reading it to him, again and again, and Leo, the Blind Man of North Saugus, let the words sink in and become part of him, part of his sightless brain. Just like Chornby had become part of him. Chornby’s face he could not picture, nor eyes, nor beard, nor jut of chin, but settled on the imagination of Chornby’s hands and could only do so when he felt his own slim unworked hands, the thin fingers, the soft palms, the frail knuckles, how the fingers wanted to touch a piano but couldn’t, or a woman, but who wants a blind man?
I saw it all, from the very beginning, heard it all, too, every word rising on the air … in our first classroom, in church, everywhere it happened, you name the place and I was there. Unannounced it came. From the heavens it must have come, taking over his soul, his body, his mind for a few bare minutes of magic. Once, and once only, every five year like clockwork, it came on him, as if grabbed by the heavenly spheres or ignition itself lighting up his lungs from the inside. My pal Victor, classmate for 16 years of schooling, teammate for 8 years, inseparable companion, fifth year custodian of miracles that made him, for the nonce, an extraordinary singer without explanation, an indescribable tenor so gifted I have to place the cause on an element beyond us mere men.
V for Victor, dit dit dit dah, dit dit dit dah, dit dit dit dah.
Elmer Fudd’s laugh speeded up ten-thousand times comes close to describing the sound of a woodpecker beaking the holy hell out of a metal chimney cap. A pneumatic “uh-huh-huh-huh-huh,” with a little “phu-bub-buh-tuth,” thrown in for variety, gives you the soul of the thing. Wikipedia calls this behaviour drumming.